Community Cinema event: Las Marthas

Community Cinema screening event– featuring Las Marthas, with guest speaker Ryan Caldwell.

Fulfilling Community Needs

The target audience for this film was perhaps most specifically young women and latino americans, and for the general American audience. We had several young women attend the screening, and our guest speaker was Ryan Caldwell– a professor at Soka University of America and an expert in gender and sexuality studies. Caldwell also hails from Texas, the same state that the film is set in. The young women that attended were all of some ethnic background other than “white” — and after the film within discussion the girls were able to easily identify with the females in the film and therefore were apt in discussion.

The Power of Why

As Las Marthas portrayed the pressures of being a competitive beauty pageant queen, a latino-American in a borderland community (Laredo, Texas), and a participant of a massive community event– we thought that Ryan Caldwell would be a fantastic discussion leader as she not only hails from Texas but very experienced in the world of the social sciences. We were hoping to address the multifaceted stresses and pressures that the young women in the film experienced, the social structures within the community featured in the film, as well as the ethnic strains and cultural paradigms present in the town of Laredo.

Impact & Action

One of the young women participating in discussion after the screening was very concerned with the long term effects of what kinds of pressures the film’s main characters experienced. She was perturbed by the thought that the young women’s lives were centered around their participation in Laredo’s celebration of George Washington’s birthday– and that the participants put so much meaning into the grandeur of their dresses, make up, etc. Our discussion leader Ryan Caldwell was very excited to talk about the ideals of beauty present in Texas and how Texan standards of beauty are very specific. Ryan expressed that the Texan standard of beauty was almost tangible it was so present. This changed the perspectives of our small audience, as although we may not all identify with California, our University is situated in a Southern Californian town– close to the ocean (therefore surrounded by “beach bums” and people who differ greatly in both style and displays of beauty). This film enlightened members of the audience with the knowledge that even within our own country standards of beauty vary and can be a central factor to the lives and social structures of certain communities. We also discussed the racial/ physical borders present within the work. Although there is literally a physical border, “an actual wall”, between Laredo, TX and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico—the border is crossed every day. Discussion of the differences in conceptualizations of the term “border” in reference to Mexico—as we all live in Southern California, we think of the border as a somewhat far off, dangerous place. In all reality it’s about an hour away. Citizens of Laredo refer to crossing the border as “crossing the bridge”—for it really is as simple as driving across a bridge for Mexicans to enter US soil. This notion of an “easy access” border was surprising to the audience.

The conversation

There was a general consensus in the audience that the girls’ mental health was put at stake for the over-the-top community event . This was a concern for the whole audience and we discussed in depth the implications of the greatest event in these girls’ lives occuring at only the age of 15. Ryan probed “what more do these girls have to look forward to in life?” This question struck a nerve in the audience. One girl pointed out that this event must even trump these young women’s wedding day.

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